Lower your blood pressure to avoid risk of stroke
June is stroke awareness month. A stroke is when blood stops reaching any part of the brain, damaging brain cells. It is a medical emergency and requires the right care, right away.
Hypertension – or high blood pressure – is a major risk factor for stroke, kidney disease, heart attacks and other heart issues.
In this video, Dr. Eva Lonn, cardiologist at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), and Dr. Kelvin Ng, stroke specialist at HHS, explain what hypertension is, what causes it, and what you can do to reduce your risk of hypertension and stroke.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension needs to be measured. High blood pressure does not give any warnings of pain or discomfort, only very seldom when levels are extremely elevated.
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard your blood is pushing against the walls of your arteries throughout your body. High blood pressure is when your heart has to work harder than normal to pump blood through the blood vessels. High blood pressure damages your kidney, your heart, and it also harms your brain.
The good news is that hypertension is one of the conditions that people can do something about. You can reduce risk of damage to your brain, and reduce risk of strokes. It’s very important to measure blood pressure, to learn how to measure it accurately and record it accurately, so you can discuss it with your physician.
Many factors can cause hypertension
In many cases, physicians do not know specifically what causes hypertension.
In general, there are genetic factors that play a part, and blood pressure tends to increase with age.
There are also many lifestyle factors that can contribute to high blood pressure, such as eating unhealthy foods, being physically inactive, and being overweight. Additionally, a number of diseases can predispose people to high blood pressure such as sleep apnea, kidney disease, and certain cardiac diseases.
Ways to reduce blood pressure
You can’t modify your genes or your age, but people can make lifestyle changes that have a big impact. The most important things you can do to lower blood pressure by lifestyle measures are:
- Be physically active
- Eat healthy foods including a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fibre, and foods that are high in potassium. Avoid a lot of salt. All of these have been shown to substantially reduce high blood pressure
- Maintain a good body weight – generally defined as less than 25 kilograms per square metre
- Limit alcoholic drinks to two per day and, ideally, have some days without alcohol
- Don’t smoke. Smoking has a detrimental effect on the body’s arteries and hypertension
If you are prescribed medication to lower your blood pressure, it is very important to take it regularly.
COVID-19 has thrown a lot of uncertainty in our lives. But one thing that isn’t uncertain is the harms of hypertension on your health.
This stroke month, make the right choice because hypertension matters. Your health matters.